“I have lived in the UK for 4 years in some difficult situations which had a negative effect on me, the trips and community centre have changed everything for the better. To me the trips are so successful, it’s miraculous. I am so very grateful and will cherish the memories forever.”
What better way to start our report than these words from S, that encapsulate what we had hardly dared to hope for when we decided a year ago to try to offer a welcome and respite visit for displaced people to the area that we are privileged to live in.
And so to Brilley on 21st August, a typical British summers day, overcast, drizzly and a little chilly but a very warm welcome in a beautiful garden with lots of opportunity to chat. Jo and Noel together with local friends, Helen, Jaspal, Sara, Sherrill, Julie, Susi, Amy, Taylor, Lee, John, Lucas and Gareth had planned for a super garden party and walk and were assisted in this by Rachel, Pauline , Dante, Sean , Sally, Virginia , big Al, Ron, Ailsa and Will (a dedicated dishwasher who also performed in Talgarth).
Another great day combining the local welcome with the support of our wider group and all made possible by our dear friends in Swansea, Wayne and Maria and the attendance of over 40 people from Syria, Oman, Eritrea, Senegal, Iran , Ethiopia, Albania, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
This day would not have been so successful without the generous loans of equipment from Brilley Village Hall, Big Al, The Swan in Hay and donations from Morrisons, Aldi, The Co-op, Rococco Catering in Brilley, Carrie and so many wonderful donations from unknown individuals kindly kept for us by St Mary’s church Hay and Lib Dems offices in Brecon and stored at Ty Mawr limes offices. It is hard to know how to adequately thank the many people who have helped us to prosper as a group and to be able to assist other groups supporting ‘forced migrant’ people but we are always mindful that so many people are involved.
The day in Brilley actually started months earlier with a meeting at Carrie’s house and subsequent meetings in Jo and Noel’s exuberant wild style garden with various people who were to contribute to the visit. The build up started several days earlier with a second cut of the meadow by Gareth, cake making by many individuals and on Saturday with Noel, Jo, Amy and Rachel combining to cook a delicious vegetable curry, Dahl and rice as well as a number of people including Sean and Reg putting up the shelters and tents.Sunday started early in Swansea with people making their way to the coach assisted if needed by Wayne , Sam and Lazlo. Bluebird coaches and Stuart again made the journey a great part of the day out by giving a comfortable ride and an informative and amusing commentary.
Meanwhile in Brilley, more donations started to arrive, the large marquee was erected (high wind and rains had made this undesirable the day before) and prayers continued to be said for fair weather and a good day. Jo’s B&B guest, a vicar , was encouraged to use her professional links to assist!
A phone call from Wayne at 11.15 alerted us to their speedy progress so we were able to meet the coach at the top of the lane to ensure people were welcomed as they arrived. Coffees and teas , biscuits and brioche vanished as introductions were made and laughter and smiles abounded. Football, crafts, bouncing on the trampoline, swinging, climbing , chats, flatbread making in the clay oven with many joining in to roll or cook (and share memories and tips) supervised by Jaspal and relaxation flowed into the delicious lunch eaten in the wildflower meadow at tables decorated with Sweetpeas.
Nation talked truth unto nation, farmers from Ethiopia and Eritrea to English and Welsh farmers, mothers from Syria, Oman, Albania and Pakistan chatted among themselves and to British mothers and grandmothers. My first aid kit came into action to deal with a burn and a wasp sting – did you know toothpaste helps burns? N said she’d had to abandon dental studies at home and hoped to return to these sometime and we shared thoughts about juggling children and a career.
We all marvelled at finding an Arabic speaking farmer ‘Hareth’ who led a walk around the Dingle, meeting Jim the woodsman and to the barn to see his sheep and drink homemade cider. The yurt served as a temporary prayer area, children were shared around allowing mums to relax a little and even the ever present rain or threat of rain didn’t dampen spirits. 14 people (including children) managed to fit into Noel’s car to avoid the worst of the rain whilst the barn and cider took care of the rest! Daniel now officially the fastest 3000m runner in Wales ran back from the barn with others in contention.
Tea and cakes were shared , clothes and toys picked over in the best type of jumble sale without money having to change hands. Toiletries and food shared around and fond farewells shared. Individual gifts given to friends, E from Ethiopia was delighted with an Ethiopian scarf Rachel had brought back from one of her visits especially as he has his 26th birthday in 2 days. N, O and A with toys and clothes and W with another scarf. Wayne channelled his inner African porter carrying a box on his head to the coach and we all helped to carry heavy bags up the lane.
Stuart full of smiles welcomed them back on and drove home. All were tired, damp but delighted with a great party. I’m told most people slept on the way home! Further comments shared with us confirm that we are doing something that not only helps us to feel we are doing something in the face of the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War but also really benefits the people we want to help.
Comments shared with Wayne on the bus:-
Z from S: when I sit at home I get really stressed about my situation. Going to the community and on trips helps me to feel better. I love to meet different people and languages and the very kind people that host the trips. The countryside and people are wonderful.
S from S: the trips help me a lot- the people are so friendly and welcoming. The donations of food and clothes helped me greatly when I was destitute with no money. They have helped me with household items since I moved to my new flat. Many of us sit at home depressed much of the time and I see a massive difference in everyone as well as myself when we are made so welcome. It’s a brief period when we don’t feel so isolated and feel like normal people who can simply have day trips/holidays. The friendships I have made and being valued in helping out on the trips has changed my outlook entirely. I now feel so connected with the area I live in and want to stay rather than continue to feel displaced, constantly looking for somewhere to settle. I have lived in the UK for 4 years in some difficult situations which had a negative effect on me, the trips and community centre have changed everything for the better. To me the trips are so successful it’s miraculous. I am so very grateful and will cherish the memories forever.
E from E: For me the trips are a matter of survival. It helps me to feel accepted and as normal as is possible in my situation. I’ve loved the activities especially the football. The donations and activities have seriously kept me from ultimate desperation.
N from O: When I go on the trips and see the beautiful scenery I forget my problems. My children are so happy to so many wonderful things, the hosts and people on the trips are so supportive of my family which is a rare opportunity for me to relax properly.
N from E: I am amazed how beautiful the countryside is, I can see many farms, my family are farmers. It’s so kind of you and the hosts to arrange such things, we feel loved, this is very important to us. To feel welcome and valued is incredible, I’m so grateful. Thank you. The kindness and hospitality was far beyond what I expected. I enjoyed learning about the local forest and its plants/trees and also about sheep! I loved all the info on farming because of my farming background – we exchanged lots of information and ideas regarding agriculture.
K From I: It was a great experience and a new place for me to visit. The food was very nice (I always enjoy the food on the trips). It was a very positive and relaxing day for me. Thank you very much. Cider!!!
S from P: It was good to be somewhere different. My mother and I really enjoyed making the flatbread. The children loved the trampoline (giving mum and me a nice break). We loved being in the countryside in such a beautiful place – a warm welcome and positive space. My mum enjoyed being somewhere other than in a community centre.
A from B: Out in the countryside it was great. Very welcoming people. We saw sheep, donkeys and beautiful gardens – it was so good for the children, they had so many fun things to do. We had a great walk and learned many tree names.
E from E: It was beautiful and a friendly culture, just like Wales! I connected with a lady that had worked in Ethiopia, she gave me a lovely scarf in the colours of my country’s flag for my birthday. A very kind gentleman showed us the local area and his farm, he talked about/showed us indigenous and non-indigenous trees. The people were very welcoming, giving us the confidence to relax, enjoy and integrate. Thank you so much!!
M from E: We had a wonderful walk. We were told about the local trees and plants – we even had a go at cutting sheep’s hooves.
S from S: The food was amazing (as always). We learned about the wonderful forest. The gentleman explained many things about farming and the local area. The hosts were so kind and a really beautiful place.
H from S: My children were so happy to play in the forest and join all the activities. We were treated with so much respect, as decent people, this is so important and wonderful for us. It was great for me and my family and we are very grateful.
What better way to end the report of our 12th trip. Thanks to the many people who made all of this possible including donating the generous sums of money that have allowed us to transport and pay for things.